America ReFramed

S7 E4 | FULL EPISODE

Struggle & Hope

Following the Civil War, all-Black towns emerged in what is now modern-day Oklahoma. Initially founded in an effort to convince the U.S. to create an all-Black state, only a few towns cling heroically to life. STRUGGLE & HOPE gives voice to the stories of the last remaining residents, while charting their fight to ensure their towns retain independence, character and hope for a better future.

AIRED: February 19, 2019 | 0:57:11
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TRANSCRIPT

NATASHA DEL TORO: Coming up onAmerica ReFramed...

SHIRLEY NERO: They left out

our story in our history books.

That's why a lot of people do not know about the black towns.

DEL TORO: All-black towns,

dating back to the Civil War.

SPENCER NERO: My dad was born and raised right here

on this same place that I was.

And his dad, same thing.

KEISHA GAINES CURRIN: Everyone on every corner

could be considered your family.

Everyone here would take care of you.

DEL TORO: More than 50 all-black communities

were established in Oklahoma.

Yes, it was respite from the racism

that was waiting for us when we got out of town.

BRUCE FISHER: By 1905, black folks,

they owned more land in Oklahoma

than black folks all over the United States combined.

NATASHA DEL TORO: A disappearing legacy

and a fight for survival.

CURRIN: They've taken our school,

they've taken our zip code,

If they took our water, that would be the last thing.

SPENCER NERO: A lot of rich history there,

and once it's gone, it's gone.

SHIRLEY: I know it will never be what it was,

but I'm looking at the future of what it can be.

DEL TORO: "Struggle and Hope."

Next, onAmerica ReFramed.

Major funding forAmerica ReFramed

is provided by

the Corporation for Public Broadcasting

and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Additional funding is provided by the Wyncote Foundation,

the National Endowment for the Arts,

and the Reva and David Logan Foundation.

SHALON YOUNGBLOOD: In college, I was reading

a romance novel one time, and in this romance novel,

they were talking about

Indian Territory, and in there,

that romance novel told me about my town

and I had never knew it.

And that's when I found out that Tullahassee

was the first established

town by black freedmen, and it had been given to them

by the Native Americans.

It's not taught in our school books.

It wasn't taught, you know, in our history books.

SHIRLEY NERO: You have to consider

who's writing the history book,

and they do not put everything in the history book.

They left out our story in our history books,

so that's why a lot of people

do not know about the black towns.

♪ (man vocalizing)

We won't have no historical significance,

unless somebody sees to it we keep it.

JIMMIE WHITE: This is the story of people dedicated

to saving the all-black towns of Oklahoma.

Towns all but forgotten,

but with a story too valuable for us to lose.

It's a fight for a revival,

a rebirth of the all-black towns...

even if weeds have taken over a few buildings along the way.

To understand why people so badly want

to save the all-black towns,

let's go back to how they started.

After the Civil War,

African Americans were looking for a new start.

After slavery was abolished,

people wanted to escape oppression,

set up all-black towns across the United States.

Historians say

50 all-black towns were formed

in the "Twin Territories,"

or what is now Oklahoma,

more than any other state.

It was just an all-black town.

I guess it was a respite from the racism

that was waiting for us when we got out of town.

HENRIETTA HICKS: The willingness of the people,

and the strength of the people,

and their patience had to play into the equation

for them to set up the towns.

LEO TOWNSELL: Black towns came up because of

the simple fact that people wanted to feel close to people.

WHITE: My own father told me,

he came from Arkansas, and he said that,

that this was the best place, you know,

that he could be a college teacher here

in Oklahoma, and he had that freedom.

HICKS: They had fairs, they had carnivals,

they had rodeos trying to get people to come,

and they did.

They came in droves.

The town just boomed.

College came into the town

and they brought in theaters

and they started clubs and things like that.

So, the town just really grew.

WHITE: Despite early success,

towns started to disappear.

Now, only a dozen remain.

Traces of the history are left.

As people continue to leave these towns,

this history is at risk of disappearing altogether,

but some people refuse to give up.

Like many young people,

Spencer Nero left his hometown,

the all-black town of Rentiesville,

to go to college.

But unlike others, he returned.

SPENCER NERO: My dad was, you know,

born and raised right here on this same place that I was.

And his dad, same thing.

Whenever I was a lot younger,

Dad had a lot of cattle.

It changed a whole lot

once I graduated, you know, college.

As far as, you know, me owning, you know,

majority of the cattle here and, you know,

and now he's helping.

SANFORD NERO: I was really glad to

see him come back home,

and he purchased some property adjoining ours.

So, we put the two together,

and he's pretty much taken the reins,

and I was really glad to see that.

(engine rumbling in distance)

(laughter)

- I don't know.

(tractor rumbling)

SPENCER NERO: Jobs are scarce,

and for you to be able to make a decent living

or to be able to use your education

here in this area,

it's kind of slim.

(sparks cracking)

WHITE: Spencer is hoping

that with what he learned in college

he can prove it's still possible

to build a life and make a living

in his hometown.

In 1889, when Oklahoma was

opened up for settlement,

land could be claimed in what was called the Land Run.

Many African Americans got land

because they had been slaves of Native Americans.

Enterprising African American land agents,

like E.P. McCabe,

saw the Land Run as an opportunity

to create an all-black state.

If enough black people

from across the United States

made the Land Run,

it was hoped that their demands

for an all-black state

could not be denied.

During the Civil War,

the Native Americans,

who were slave holders,

because the Five Civilized Tribes

had, had sided with the Confederacy,

when the war ended, the Treaties of 1866,

that were renegotiated with Native Americans

that had two clauses in each treaty

that impacted black folks.

One of them said that you will abolish slavery in your tribe,

and the other said that you will afford...

you will adopt these former slaves

as citizens in your tribe.

Well, by virtue of them being citizens,

when Oklahoma was opened for settlement,

those black folks got land, too.

You had two groups of black folks

that were coming to Oklahoma.

You had the former slaves,

who received land as part of the allotment process.

Then you had those that came

and took part in the Land Run.

By 1905, black folks owned

over 1.5 million acres of land in Oklahoma.

They owned more land in Oklahoma

than black folks all over the United States combined.

(birds chirping)

WHITE: All of this land meant there were

wealthy African Americans in Oklahoma,

even black millionaires,

and successful entrepreneurs like Clark and Lennie Holderness

who opened their cleaning business

in the Greenwood district of Tulsa.

By the 1920s,

black-owned businesses were booming

in African American communities across the United States,

especially in Greenwood,

which earned the nickname "Black Wall Street."

Out of these communities

came great minds and talented people.

(playing bluesy guitar riff)

♪ I'm a long, tall Okie, well

♪ I wear the ten-gallon hat

♪ I'm a long, tall Okie, well

♪ I wear the ten-gallon hat ♪

♪ And when they look at me they say ♪

♪ "Harold Jr., Harold Jr., is that your hat?" ♪

♪ Don't put your fingers on that brim, boy ♪

♪ I don't play that

♪ I'm a long, tall Okie, well

♪ I rides a palomino mare

♪ I'm a long, tall Okie, well

♪ I rides a...

♪ And when they look

♪ At me they say, "Harold Jr., Harold Jr., ♪

♪ Can I ride your mare?"

♪ Don't put your feet in them stirrups boy, ♪

♪ I don't play that, either

(laughs)

(guitar riffing)

WHITE: Harold was the first black professor

to teach at Northeastern State University

in Tahlequah, Oklahoma,

where he still lives.

Harold often goes back to Taft,

where in high school he was

a star basketball player on a team coached by his dad.

ALDRIDGE JR.: This is the gym, used to be the gym.

This is where, um, we played.

This was home.

Dad, with the team,

was the first coach after desegregation

to win three consecutive state championships.

And he taught us that when we played white schools,

not to allow what they did

to influence what we were doing.

He taught this one thing,

he said, "When you get fouled,

I want to see some teeth."

He said, "And hold your hand up.

"Don't sling your hand down

or you're going to have to deal with me."

He said, "I want to see some teeth."

He said, "Now under your breath, you can say (bleep)."

(laughs)

(music playing from home video)

My daddy, wherever he went, I went.

(singing on video)

Since 2000, I've been one of the primary caretakers of my dad.

And so, you know,

the last two years it was like five or seven days a week

I was in Taft or at a hospital somewhere.

So I haven't done anything with my horses.

I haven't done hardly anything with

my research except push it out of the way.

My Dad died in August,

and so I wasn't hardly doing anything, you know,

staying drunk.

(laughing): You can't do anything like that.

One of my sister's wild cats.

Daddy was a carpenter,

and so he built the house.

We were at that crossroads.

I said, "Well, let's just sell it."

And me and my younger sister was like,

"Uh, I don't want to do that."

We'll keep it, but we got to fix it up.

A lot of work, time, money.

It's just, where do I start?

WHITE: There was a push for 40,000 African Americans

to claim land in the 1889 Land Run,

but only 10,000 did.

The idea was if they were the majority of the population,

the state would be governed and led by African Americans.

When Oklahoma became a state in 1907,

the first statute passed was a law to segregate

solely on the basis of race.

FISHER: You know, segregation in the rail stations,

waiting areas and so forth

and, and throughout the Oklahoma history,

Oklahoma would become one of the most

rigid segregated states in America.

Everything was separate.

Separate schools, separate water fountains,

separate bathrooms, separate waiting areas,

even separate, separate telephone booths in Oklahoma.

That was kind of, um, backlash from the initial

hopes and aspirations

of making Oklahoma a black state led to.

WHITE: While segregation crushed hopes

for equality and opportunity outside of the towns,

inside of these all-black communities,

residents knew there was nothing that could stop them.

We see these towns and communities

establish a variety of businesses,

from hotels, banks, juke joints,

all the way to newspapers.

We had grain elevators, train station,

cotton gins,

we had a casket-making shop.

WHITE: The music thrived,

the schools were winning awards, and the towns had rodeos.

Today, rodeos remain

an important part of the culture of the all-black towns.

(audience cheering)

- Whoa!

(cheering continues)

WHITE: Spencer Nero went to college on a rodeo scholarship.

SPENCER NERO: This was actually a magazine cover

that I was featured on,

and this was during my college rodeo, rodeo days,

and this was kind of during the whole cultivation

of me actually being able to beat somebody.

WHITE: Spencer comes from a long line of

rodeo competitors and cowboys, and his family

even has their own arena.

SPENCER NERO: The black cowboy has always been around,

even in the Old West.

A lot of people don't realize that, you know, over a third,

about two-thirds of the cowboys

who actually worked on the range and all that

were either Hispanic, black, or Indian.

'Cause it was hard work.

WHITE: But keeping the farm running

doesn't give him much time for his hobby.

(thunder rumbling)

(voiceover): Rodeo, it's not really a hobby

anymore, it's a business, and if you do it as a hobby,

then you're going to have to be more business-minded

about, you know, your hobby,

because it's very, very cutthroat.

WHITE: He also has to work a second job.

My dad said I must work in an office

because I have to have my coffee every morning.

So... (laughs)

(voiceover): I think more long-term, you know, than anything,

and that's to be able to possibly do

the cow deal full-time.

At this point I'm not big enough,

and so you have to have a 9:00-to-5:00.

WHITE: Spencer works as a college recruiter

in a nearby town.

SPENCER NERO: Well, come on guys.

We'll go ahead and go across campus.

All right.

What made you come down?

GIRL: Me? - Yeah.

GIRL: My mom. - Well, that's good.

Mom's looking out for your best interests

and you don't even know it yet.

'Cause with my parents, you had two options:

Either you go to college or you go to the military.

And, you know,

and that was during the heat of, you know, Afghanistan,

whenever I graduated high school.

So, it's kinda one of those deals that,

"I think I'll go to college." (chuckles)

SPENCER NERO: Like, this would be Tulsa Stock Yard.

(auctioneer talking on video)

SPENCER NERO: College has been a huge influence on,

you know, I guess you could say the profitability

of what I do as far as the farming end

and, you know, just being able to reach out

and try new things.

I could sit here and do this all day.

(laughs)

Yeah. I could sit and do it all day.

WHITE: Losing the towns would mean losing this history.

SELBY MINNER: One, two, three, four...

WHITE: Blues legend D.C. Minner

was born and raised in Rentiesville, Oklahoma.

He would go on to play with the likes of Freddie King,

Chuck Berry, and Bo Diddley,

before returning to his hometown to reopen

his grandmother's juke joint with his wife Selby,

a Rhode Island native.

MINNER: Well, D was my best friend,

and we, I met him in California,

and we started playing music together

two weeks later on stage...

(crowd member laughs) ...and I had the bass,

and he needed a bass player,

he'd retired from bass and switched to guitar;

and he said, "I can show you how to play that right."

(laughing): And I said, "Good!"

And this is a song of D.C.'s...

(playing bluesy riff)

that I do almost every show.

But I play bass.

♪ A little bit, little bit

♪ Little bit every day

♪ Make happiness

♪ Make it come your way

♪ Make it come your way

♪ Make it come your way

This is the studio,

it's sort of the same as it was when D.C. used it.

This is the final big machine

that he used to make about ten CDs

because we put out about 14 CDs here.

And he got into five halls of fame before he passed.

D's been gone since 2008.

He wanted me to keep the whole thing going,

so here I am. (laughs)

Doing my best.

WHITE: Blues played in the all-black towns of Oklahoma

connects the past and the present.

In Oklahoma, we're kind of the crossroads.

People coming from the south, comes through Oklahoma

to go to California,

or from Texas up to Kansas City and back down,

so you had a lot of music here

that people don't know anything about,

a lot of good musicians that came from here.

(drumming)

There's nothing like, uh,

expressing yourself in the blues art form

that allows you to tell your story

or perform the music behind someone

who has a story to tell.

(drumming)

WHITE: But keeping the music alive is not easy.

CARR: Have men

and/or women, been successful as blues artists?

Yes, they have.

Uh, but by and large, man, it's...

many a night I've finished doing gigs

and got 60 bucks, 30 bucks.

You know what I'm saying? You know?

(drumming)

WHITE: The Blues Club in Rentiesville is one of the last

juke joints in the state.

Keeping the music alive could be one way for the town to survive.

Meanwhile, Harold is documenting another aspect

of black history he personally lived through:

segregation.

HAROLD: What got me started on it was,

I woke up one morning and realized

I had more complete information on my horses

than I did myself.

To look back and see when people,

who basically had no hope,

and they made it anyway.

I realized I had to talk about

how Oklahoma got to be the way it was.

Why was it a, a racist state?

What history ends up being

is what the upper crust of the victors can agree upon,

and usually it's propaganda and proselytizing

and just lying and leaving out stuff and distorting stuff,

and then we call that a history.

I interviewed several black teachers

and I thought maybe I can do a video documentary.

Many of them have died on me,

but I still have it.

I just don't have it with, uh, digital.

Yeah, this is it.

Ah, you kicked it back out, did you?

(cassette tape clatters) God!

Aww.

WHITE: Tullahassee is the oldest historically all-black town

left in Oklahoma.

CURRIN: I decided to move back because I had a son

and we were living in the city and he was

about three and I said, "Oh no,

I cannot raise him in the city."

And the first thing that came to my mind was Tullahassee.

(horse neighing)

My grandmother is still here, my grandfather grew up here.

They raised my mother here

and they also raised me here.

Everyone on every corner

could be considered your family.

Everyone here would take care of you.

I'm very, very proud of Tullahassee,

very proud of, of all the history that happened here.

Are you jumping on the trampoline?

Then you don't need shoes on anyway.

But there they go.

Wait a second.

WHITE: Keisha is a mother,

works full-time at a nearby veterans administration office,

and works in the

Tullahassee town hall.

CURRIN: Things happen,

and so I was very glad that I moved back,

that I was able to,

to just jump right in and, and help.

Although, some of my new-age views

may not go over so well, but they'll get used to it.

(laughs)

It just makes you wonder

what the town would be like if there were still a big community

like we used to have.

I feel really sad,

almost depressed about it.

'Cause these things could have been avoided.

I mean, it is a road the county could possibly

have helped, but if no one lives on them,

they just basically become nonexistent.

("Cotton-Eyed Joe" playing)

♪ Where did you come from?

♪ Where did you go?

♪ Where did you come from?

♪ Ol' Cotton-eyed Joe

♪ Ol' Cotton-eyed Joe

♪ I come for to see you

♪ I come for to sing

♪ I come for to show you

♪ My little diamond ring

♪ My little diamond ring

♪ My ring shines like silver

♪ My ring shines like gold

♪ I'm gonna give it to my little Cindy James ♪

♪ Hers for to hold

♪ Hers for to hold

♪ My little diamond ring

WHITE: From their height,

the all-black towns of Oklahoma faced decline

for many reasons,

including the Great Depression,

but there was also a darker reason that drove people away.

With all this prosperity

in the black community,

envious eyes looked upon what was being done,

and jealousy and race hatred

erupted.

In 1921, a race riot decimated Black Wall Street.

(flames crackling, people talking indistinctly)

(flames crackling)

♪ ♪

My grandmother was a survivor of the Tulsa race riot.

My mom used to tell me about the Tulsa race riot,

again, because it wasn't really validated anyplace else,

you know, it was like, I didn't know what the heck

she was talking about.

But you got so many people who were impacted

by the race riot, and it was kept such a secret,

that we missed out on, on a wonderful opportunity

to be able to educate people

on the bad, bad outcome of racist thinking and attitudes.

They culminated in

the worst race riot in American history,

you know, and, and we gotta know that.

WHITE: For decades, officials in Oklahoma denied

a devastating race war had occurred.

As a result, a conspiracy of silence.

CHARLES MOORE: I had to learn the history.

I had to learn,

but you know what?

I can't tell your story.

Only you can tell your story.

Even when it comes to your salvation,

I can't tell your testimony.

Only you can tell your testimony.

Only you can talk about what you went through.

Only you can talk about how you

had to have struggle,

but then guess what?

After struggle comes hope.

SHIRLEY NERO: It's dry.

So we'll have, uh...

we'll have a door about right here.

It'll be a double-wide door.

And we're going to try to have all of the photos

of all of the inductees starting on this side,

and each year we'll just place them all along the walls.

WHITE: Shirley came back to Clearview to retire,

and like so many of the towns, was surprised

how empty it felt.

SHIRLEY NERO: I know it'll never be what it was,

but I'm looking at the future of what it can be.

WHITE: Shirley and her husband,

Donnie, a retired college president,

have an idea to build a museum in Clearview

to honor black educators.

DONNIE NERO: I came up through the time

and lived through the time of segregation

in the country and in the state of Oklahoma,

and I appreciate the efforts of my educators

and the teachers that I had,

because I never did realize

the struggles that they were going through.

Although they were professional teachers,

once they left the classroom,

they still had to deal with issues related to civil rights

and the rights of all individuals.

I realized that these educators were

leaving this life without notoriety.

WHITE: Their hope is

the museum could become a place to preserve

some of the history of the black communities,

and help save their town.

DONNIE NERO: Many people ask, well,

why have it in the town of Clearview?

Why don't you build it in Oklahoma City?

Or why don't you build it in Tulsa?

And our reason is very plain, and it's very clear.

Why not? Why not have it in

the town of Clearview, one of the historical black towns

in the state of Oklahoma?

We think that it will bring not only the notoriety,

but it will bring the visibility that is so sorely needed.

(hammer tapping)

WHITE: In Tullahassee,

Keisha has been hit with devastating news.

An unpaid bill could cost a Green Country community

its water supply.

News on 6 anchor Ivana Johnson

found the Wagoner County town of Tullahassee

has two weeks to pay or be cut off.

As of right now, the last time I checked,

it was around $30,000.

The issue has been, you know,

water leaks.

You know, when a town that has no revenue

has major water leaks, at the same time

it's drowning us as a town.

You know, we don't-- do not have

any other revenue besides

what our water customers pay to be able to

pay our water bill.

Now, the water is, is basically the only thing

that we have left that's letting us hold onto our town.

If they took our water,

it would be easier for them to annex our town.

They offered to take our water and we don't owe anything.

You know, "Just give us your water.

You won't owe a bill."

You know, who would agree to that?

If you take our water, you take everything from us.

They've taken our school, they've taken our zip code.

Tullahassee's zip code used to be 74466.

I've never known anyone else

who's had their post office shut down,

have their zip code

taken away from them.

If they took our water, that would be the last thing.

(keys clacking)

WHITE: Shalon is helping Keisha

to raise funds for the water bill.

(keys clacking)

YOUNGBLOOD: This morning I checked it was at 79,

so let me see what it is now.

Um, right here it tells you that

we've raised 81 shirts,

and $820 has been raised.

And the front says

Carter G. Woodson Wildcats, which is our school,

and on the back we have Tullahassee, Oklahoma,

and we have our correct zip code,

the zip code we're going to try to get back, 74466.

And we're rebuilding our community one paw at time,

and so far it says we have

847 Facebook supporters,

and that's in less than ten days.

So, I mean, I know it just needs to get out there.

We just need to keep it going. And we are.

CURRIN: This is one of my crafts.

Um, I will be

selling this for

Tullahassee.

And we went to Wagoner County,

asking for help.

We went several different places,

several different avenues,

and everyone says the same thing.

"We can't help on past-due bills.

We're not able to assist you."

I've been told no so much since I've got on the board

that it doesn't even bother me anymore.

I'm going to the... I'm going to

open that next door.

Someone is bound to say yes,

"Yes, we will help you."

"Yes, we will help you save Tullahassee."

If I had any one wish in this world,

I wouldn't wish for a new house

or a new car, or a million dollars.

I'd wish for Tullahassee to survive.

HANK McVAY: Listen, let me say it again.

Let me, uh, uh... petition our prayers to you,

every single day at 12:00,

pray for Tullahassee

that the $30,000 bill will be paid.

Pray that God move on Tullahassee.

Can we do that this week?

Let's ask God and pray that God will, will,

will, will...

will perform a miracle, right now.

(choir singing "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus")

♪ Say it one more time, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus ♪

♪ Say it one more time

♪ Jesus, Jesus, Jesus

♪ Yeah, yeah, yeah

(applause)

- Hallelujah.

WHITE: Spencer is trying to leave town

for a rodeo.

SPENCER: Mr. Ugly would come get over here

in the picture, wouldn't he?

(laughs)

(laughing): He is not that fine a specimen.

I'm trying to think of, you know,

whoever had him, must have like

bottle fed him or something

because he's really gentle.

I may teach him to lead or something.

He needs a special job, you know.

(gate clanging)

Oh, that's why.

(banging against metal)

That's why everybody's looking like that.

'Cause the feed's just about out.

Hey, what's going on, Kent?

This is Spencer.

Hey, I'm going to need a...

I'm going to need another ton.

Yep.

We're going to a rodeo and it's about a three-hour drive.

Just going to try to make a trip, you know,

kind of a, I guess a small vacation of it.

And the biggest deal is just being gone for that long, um,

because I'm going to have to make sure

I have all my feed that I need.

And while they're eating as good as they are,

I don't want them to go, you know,

without, without something in front of their face,

is the biggest thing.

Because whenever they backup on feed,

that's whenever a lot of times

you kind of open them up to getting sick

and different stuff like that, so.

Gotta get these dudes out the rain.

I get pretty... pretty antsy,

uh, depending on all of what I have going on

here at the house.

That's usually whenever it gets the most nerve-racking.

Knowing that I have a lot of calves here

that are freshly weaned and, you know,

aren't all the way eating and stuff like that.

I like to see them twice a day.

And for not being able to see them twice a day,

it kind of makes me a little uneasy.

(paper rustling)

All the yellow copies are the... are the bad ones.

That means I had to pay for something.

(laughs)

(paper rustling)

Man.

Keep seeing all these numbers, goodness.

It's a wonder I still have any... still have any money.

This is crazy.

WHITE: It's been about a year since Harold lost his father.

He revisits his own past as he searches

for a path forward.

ALDRIDGE JR.: And this one here, we were playing Wichita,

and this guy right here is Dave Stallworth.

He went on and played pro ball.

WHITE: After college, Harold became a referee

in the American Basketball Association.

ALDRIDGE JR.: Every weekend I was gone,

and Christmas holidays we called 25 basketball games

from California to New York.

What really burnt me was,

I was so disappointed with what I saw

as how the players were thinking.

Uh, and... as I look back,

I could understand, they had come out the ghetto,

poverty, single-parent household,

and they'd give them this big money,

and then they'd just lose their minds

and never seemed to have had

any social consciousness, you know?

And then I saw the players who weren't the superstars,

how they were transferred around like slaves.

(crowd cheering)

And my last game was in Memphis.

I was on a red-eye flight.

I was reading The Path to Manhood,

and it went like,

"I went forth into the desert and wandered there weary while.

"And I learned hunger, thirst, and pain,

"and forgot the peace which once was mine.

"I looked up on these brothers,

the wandering sons of the garden."

And I said, "That's all these soul brothers,

the wandering sons of the garden."

Then he says, "And I looked upon them in wonder

for they sought not to quit the barren land."

I thought, "If this plane went down,

"would I be satisfied with

how I've lived and died?"

And I said, "No, this won't get it.

I'm in the fight."

WHITE: At the Down Home Blues Club,

Selby is getting ready for

the club's annual Blues Festival.

This is my lineup for this year,

it's just finally finalized,

and we will have 30 bands, over 200 musicians.

We go all night, three nights in a row,

on three stages.

So I'm starting with the Oklahoma connection.

That's what I'm calling it.

I'm getting close to 65.

Well, every year you say

you're not going to do it again,

then every year you change your mind.

(laughing): 'Cause it's a lot of work.

(mower buzzing)

(saw whirring)

Everybody gets excited the last two or three weeks.

They all come down here,

and there'll be like five or six people here

for the whole last week, helping put this thing together.

(mower engine revving)

Wolfman is really an

important part of this.

He's part of the heart of the festival,

I would say.

He always says, "I'm not doing this

"for Wolfman, I'm doing this for

Dues Paid, Selby."

(laughing): That's the band.

So I said, "Okay, Wolf,

we'll put you on the show."

My name is J.W. "Wolfman" Black.

And I play in a band known as

Dues Paid Rhythm and Blues Band.

I'm also a Buffalo Soldier representative.

I've been coming down here for

approximately 18 years.

I think as a blind person, I do a heck of a job...

(mower whirring)

...getting it ready for all the civilians

to come and enjoy themselves.

Relax, party.

They can walk barefooted.

They don't have to worry about,

"Oh, there's a snake

or an alligator."

Tough for another human,

but I'm half-wolf, half-human.

I can adjust my body temperature, and...

as long as I got some water,

every now and then a beer,

(laughing): I can survive.

MINNER: He first showed up

in '93 or something?

He was-- D.C. woke up on Sunday morning,

you know, about 9:00.

Everybody'd been up playing music till 5:00,

and they all left at 6:00,

and about 9:00 in the morning,

he looked out the back window,

and at that time we didn't have

really good people on the trash, you know,

so there were beer cans around.

And he looked out the window

and somebody was out there on their hands and knees,

with a stick going, "Mmm..." crack,

crawl over and pick it up.

"Mmm," hit the beer can, crawl over.

And-- he was picking up trash at 9:00 a.m., and D.C. said,

"I got to meet this man."

BLACK: I do it because this is history.

There's nobody else to do it.

MINNER: I would like to see a hundred festivals.

The goal is to keep the music alive.

WHITE: Back in Clearview, it's the final push for

the African American Educators Hall of Fame.

SHIRLEY NERO: Doors open at

6:30, and the event starts at 7:00.

And for a single ticket, it's $55.

Yeah, but you get a dinner with that.

Uh-huh.

Well, we've gotten a lot of calls from his students.

He's a very pop...

yes, he's a very popular man.

Yeah, but you got time to get that together.

O.A.A.E. Hall of Fame on the check.

- (on phone): ...Thank you.

All right. Okay. Bye-bye.

ANNOUNCER: I'd like to welcome everybody

to Clearview, America.

SPENCER NERO: That lady said she was moving by the fence.

She said, "I'm getting behind the bleachers."

(audience chattering)

ANNOUNCER 2: ...Spencer.

Spencer Nero.

(audience cheering)

(cheering continues)

(announcer speaking)

(audience cheering)

ANNOUNCER: All right, thank you very much.

SPENCER NERO: Well, I think I ended up being

third in the calf-roping, and I don't think

I placed in the bulldogging,

but it was a good night.

Either way, we got some money won,

and... and kind of for me,

I'm, I'm back to rodeoing a little bit.

(laughing): I can get away from the house

and kind of go somewhere, so.

- Eleven...

WHITE: In Tullahassee, the water problem

might be on the brink of a resolution.

CURRIN: Now, we're possibly

going to go through mediation and settle...

settle it outside of court, is what we're hoping.

Um, and that's a great possibility

that that will happen at this point.

So, hopefully everyone else can see what I see

and feel what I feel for the town.

That's what I'm hoping.

(dog barking)

ALDRIDGE JR.: My, my Daddy's auntie,

on her hundredth birthday,

she asked the family

to come to her birthday party

and not bring anything.

And when we got there, she walked with two canes.

She met us at the door

and she hugged and kissed everybody.

And as we sat down, she started giving us a lecture.

She was thumping that one cane on the floor,

and pointing with the other cane into the kitchen.

She said, "You see that meal in there?

Used to I could have cooked it in half the time."

She said, "But you got to have an open mind

and learn to do old things new ways."

Ho, ho, ho.

Ho.

Ho.

Hey,

you gotta listen to me.

I'm about finished.

I still can shoe the horses,

but instead of putting

all four shoes on that mare

and then shoeing another one, I just do her front feet,

and maybe this evening, I'll put the other two shoes on.

Or maybe tomorrow or maybe even next week.

And that's, uh,

old things, new ways.

I had to start incorporating that wisdom into how I live.

WHITE: Harold's hometown, Taft, has started a new music festival

where he is invited to be an honored guest.

He stops at his father's house first.

ALDRIDGE JR.: Once we get the fence up,

I think my major job over there will be about through.

It's kind of like the, the hub of the family still.

ANNOUNCER: To start this thing off,

I want to present to each and every one of you,

Mr. Harold Aldridge Jr.

(cheering and clapping)

And so this song is, uh, kinda like

how the blues got to Taft.

♪ This is a song, yeah

♪ About a man I knew, yeah,

♪ He was a friend, yes he was ♪

♪ Well, got another man

♪ Got another man

♪ Got another man in prison overalls ♪

♪ Big-legged Rosie

♪ From my Mississippi past

♪ Take your big-legged drawers and you can kiss my ♪

♪ Kiss my, kiss my... ow! ♪

Reverend, I'm sorry about that song.

(laughs)

Got to keep an open mind

and learn to do old things new ways.

(crickets chirping)

WHITE: The Blues Festival in Rentiesville is about to start.

MINNER: Music brings people together,

and I've seen that over and over and over again.

Chuck Berry, back when he was out there,

they had that little yellow line,

and the white people dancing on one side

and the black... and it's illegal,

and the next thing you know, second song,

that little yellow line's gone,

and everybody's dancing,

and that's a lot of what changed this country back in the '60s.

WHITE: Several familiar faces are on the playbill.

Dues Paid Rhythm and Blues Band right here.

- Wolfman, you've got a good shot.

- Right here, the 24th Blues Festival

in Rentiesville, Oklahoma.

(vocalizing)

(drumming)

All right, good evening everybody.

It's great to see this-- I think of it as a mirage.

The city in the desert, you know,

that comes up out of a field for three days.

You think about it and talk about it,

and work on it for a long time,

And then, poof, here we are.

And one, two, three.

♪ One mile wide

♪ We made it, my brother, to the other... ♪

♪ Well, we made it, my brother ♪

♪ Help me

WHITE: And in Clearview, a new beginning.

(applause)

SPENCER NERO: A lot of rich history there,

and once it's gone, it's gone.

Because whenever that book is closed, you can't reopen it.

And so, I think for me, it's trying to keep that,

keep that book, you know, open to where others can see it.

Old things in a new way.

MOORE: Well, can I give you a word tonight?

Listen, our best days are not our past days,

but our best days are in front of us,

because we have not gone through a struggle

to give up, we've gone through the struggle

to keep hope.

We've got to show this world

that you cannot forget this story.

DEL TORO: Major funding forAmerica ReFramed

is provided by

the Corporation for Public Broadcasting

and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Additional funding was provided by the Wyncote Foundation,

the National Endowment for the Arts,

and the Reva and David Logan Foundation.

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